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Three journalists receive IRE's 2023 Freelance Fellowship

IRE is pleased to announce that Sarah Sax, Eli Cahan and Leonora LaPeter Anton are the recipients of our 2023 Freelance Fellowships. With IRE’s support, these independent journalists will pursue projects investigating third-party regulators, families punished over cannabis, and reform school students’ path to death row.

Sarah Sax is an award-winning freelance journalist, covering the climate crisis and the way environmental change is reworking the systems we live in. She covers labor, transnational trade and commodities, gender, Indigenous rights and the criminal legal system — often with a strong justice and accountability lens. Her work has been honored with a Front Page Award, an American Association for Journalists and Authors Award and has been recognized by the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her project will be investigating how third-party certifiers systematically overlook human rights, labor, building and environmental violations in their work, leading to negative outcomes for humans, consumers and the environment.

Eli Cahan, M.D., M.S., is an award-winning investigative journalist covering the intersection of child welfare and social justice. His written work has been featured in The Washington Post, LA Times, Rolling Stone, and USA Today, among other publications. His multimedia work has appeared on TV via ABC and radio via NPR. Cahan’s reporting has won awards from the National Press Club, the News Leaders Association and elsewhere. He has received reporting fellowships from the McGraw Center, the National Press Foundation, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, among others; he has also been a grantee of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Pulitzer Center and elsewhere. Cahan is also a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. His project will investigate how child protective services is punishing parents for cannabis use and harming vulnerable families in the U.S.

Leonora LaPeter Anton is a freelance writer focused on investigative and narrative stories. She wrote for 36 years at five southeastern U.S. newspapers, including more than two decades at the Tampa Bay Times. She was part of a team that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for a series about violent conditions inside Florida's psychiatric hospitals. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her project will investigate documenting the number of boys sent to the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, who later went on to become sexual predators and murderers. At least 33 of them have been sent to death row for murder.

The generosity of an anonymous donor has allowed IRE to award fellowships to support freelance journalism for the last 15 years. The fellowships give independent journalists a financial boost to pursue investigative work. New this year is a free two-hour consultancy provided by the Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE) to help each fellow with their projects.

If you’d like to donate to the Freelance Fellowship fund, please make a donation online and designate "Freelance Fellowship" in the form.

About the award:

IRE Freelance Fellowships are awarded annually to journalists who make their living primarily as freelance/independent journalists. Applications are reviewed by experienced freelance journalists. Proposals are judged in part on the breadth, significance, and potential impact of the investigative project. At the request of the donor, proposals dealing with whistleblowers, business ethics and/or privacy issues will receive priority; projects involving other topics will be given serious consideration by the committee as well. The freelance projects are to be published or aired primarily in U.S. outlets.

Have a great idea for an investigative reporting project? We want to help!

IRE has two amazing fellowship opportunities coming up: Our Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship and our Freelance Fellowship.

The Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship

The Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship is a year-long program, filled with numerous training and networking opportunities, mentorship, access to IRE’s data services and support to help you pursue an investigative project that benefits your community. Fellows receive complimentary entry to IRE’s data journalism bootcamp, the NICAR conference, the IRE conference, as well as travel and hotel stipends to help you attend all these events!

Our 2020 fellow Sameea Kamal shared how this fellowship was transformative in her career.

“There are so many journalists of color who haven’t had access to trainings, mentors or simply the byline opportunities that this fellowship offers,” Kamal said. “It provided me the ability to take journalism trainings I may not have been able to prioritize financially on my own – as well as that commitment to using it for a specific story.”

This fellowship is open to all U.S. journalists of color, who have at least three years of post-college work experience. It was created to help you foster a solid career in investigative reporting, and to increase the range of backgrounds and experiences within the field of investigative journalism, where diverse perspectives are critically important.

The Freelance Fellowship

The Freelance Fellowship offers financial assistance to independent journalists ready to pursue an investigative reporting project.

Our previous fellows have chased stories on a range of topics, investigating hazardous Superfund sites in New Jersey, heat-related worker deaths in Texas, the Kingston coal ash spill in Tennessee and fertility fraud cases in California.

This year, IRE has three fellowships to offer, with the following cash awards:

IRE judges award fellowships for project proposals which demonstrate impact, breadth and significance. Proposals that deal with whistleblowers, business ethics or privacy issues will be given priority.

This fellowship is intended to support work that will be published in the U.S. and in outlets where the primary audience will be members of the American public.

Applications for both fellowships are now open.

Deadlines

Aug. 28, 2023: Freelance Fellowship applications are due.
Oct. 5, 2023: Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship applications are due.

Questions about the fellowships can be addressed to Anna López, director of partnerships, at anna@ire.org.

IRE is pleased to announce that Britta Lokting, Jonathan Moens and Gregor Stuart Hunter are the recipients of our 2022 Freelance Fellowships. With IRE’s support, these independent journalists will pursue projects investigating disability issues, technology, and China’s offshore wealth.

Britta Lokting, first place, is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She's written for The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Her project will investigate discrimination against parents with cognitive disabilities.

Jonathan Moens, second place, is a freelance science and investigative journalist based in Paris. He writes about brain sciences, conservation, the climate crisis and more, and has been published in various outlets, including National Geographic, The New York Times, and Undark. His project will investigate the rise of technology used to help police investigate crimes.

Gregor Stuart Hunter, third place, is a freelance reporter based in Taipei City, Taiwan. He has extensive experience covering business, politics and tech for The Guardian, Nikkei Asia and Fortune. He spent seven years in Hong Kong as a staff reporter at Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal, and three years in Abu Dhabi with The National newspaper. He is a CFA Charterholder, a Python programmer and a speaker of Chinese and Spanish. His project will investigate China’s offshore wealth.

The generosity of an anonymous donor has allowed IRE to award fellowships to support freelance journalism for the last 15 years. The fellowships give independent journalists a financial boost to pursue investigative work. New this year is a free two-hour consultancy provided by the Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors to help each fellow with their projects.

If you’d like to donate to the Freelance Fellowship fund, make a donation online. Please designate "Freelance Fellowship” in the form.

About the award:
IRE Freelance Fellowships are awarded annually to journalists who make their living primarily as freelance/independent journalists. Applications are reviewed by experienced freelance journalists. Proposals are judged in part on the breadth, significance and potential impact of the investigative project. At the request of the donor, proposals dealing with whistleblowers, business ethics and/or privacy issues will receive priority; projects involving other topics will be given serious consideration by the committee as well. The freelance projects are to be published or aired primarily in U.S. outlets.

Halima Gikandi of The World, Leslie Rangel of KTBC-TV, Austin and Kaylee Tornay of InvestigateWest will serve as IRE’s 2023 Journalists of Color Investigative Reporting Fellows.

Halima Gikandi is the Africa Correspondent for The World radio program, the largest international news program on American public radio. Based in Nairobi, Gikandi reports on current affairs in Africa, with a focus on politics, security, and human rights. In 2019 and 2021, she served on the board of the International Press Association of East Africa (IPAEA), which advocates for hundreds of journalists working in the region.

Gikandi’s project will investigate allegations that certain U.S. citizens are taking advantage of Uganda’s weak social and legal protections to exploit minors.

Leslie Rangel is an award-winning morning anchor at KTBC’s Good Day Austin. Before landing in Austin, Rangel's work took her across the south, covering oil refinery explosions in Beaumont, Texas, chasing tornadoes and earthquakes in Oklahoma City, covering the Austin Police department and helping to launch the first local Fox affiliate in Waco.

Rangel’s project will focus on the reported lack of accessibility of mental health services for communities of color in Texas. She will be looking at the intersection of mental health access, community impact and systemic racism in Texas communities.

Before her role as an investigative reporter with InvestigateWest, Kaylee Tornay was an award-winning education reporter at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and the Medford Mail Tribune. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon.

Tornay’s project will take a deep dive into Oregon’s child care and early education system to determine whether it is perpetuating inequities for students and their families in regard to supply, quality and affordability of child care and early education options.

IRE’s yearlong fellowship is designed to increase the range of backgrounds, experiences and interests within the field of investigative journalism, where diverse perspectives are critically important. The 2023 fellowship program was open to journalists of color with at least three years of post-college work experience.

Gikandi, Rangel and Tornay were selected based on the projects they pitched in their applications. They will continue in their current professional roles while receiving a suite of IRE resources and support. These include training at an IRE data journalism bootcamp and both annual conferences, and they will receive IRE data services. Most importantly, they will each receive a mentor network of IRE members who will guide them through their year-long project.

The IRE Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship was initially made possible thanks to generous donations from IRE members Mike Gruss, Meghan Hoyer, Megan Luther and Mike Tahani. Additional funding was provided by the IRE community and company sponsors ABC News, CNN, ESPN, Gray Television and Hearst Foundations. More than $115,000 has been raised to support the program.

Applications for the 2024 IRE Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship will be available in October 2023.

If you’d like to donate to the fellowship, visit the IRE donation page and indicate your contribution is for the JOC fellowship.

If you want to participate in IRE training events and need financial assistance to attend, check out our fellowships and scholarships.

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